Maintaining safety and ending sexual assault at GVSU

Ella Fritzemeier and Thomas Haas

We understand many of our students are concerned, hurt, angry and saddened by sexual violence, both on and off campus, regardless of whether it was committed by a stranger or someone known to the victim/survivor. We share in this concern and anger. As a result, the campus community remains steadfast in devoting time and resources to education, prevention and advocacy—all necessary as we seek to eliminate sexual violence.

At Grand Valley State University, the “It’s On Us” campaign is dedicated to creating cultural change to shift the way we think about and react to sexual assault. In our leadership roles as president of the university and president of student senate, we welcome you to join us as committed partners in this work.

“It’s On Us” addresses all of the aspects of sexual assault that allow sexual violence to remain so prevalent. Making this kind of change requires a systemic, long-term effort, as well as necessary resources and support to address immediate needs.

The tremendous turnout at the Thursday, Sept. 29 town hall was evidence that students, faculty and staff care about these issues. In particular, it was noteworthy to see the number of students who wanted to discuss issues affecting our community, and do something about them.

In addition to those who were there in person, off-campus students and alumni watched the live video on Facebook. The panel of student leaders from Eyes Wide Open, Greeks Against Sexual Assault and student senate and a variety of senior administrators in attendance took notes and remain dedicated to reviewing feedback and acting on the next steps.

As president of GVSU, Thomas Haas joined off-campus landlords Friday Oct. 7, along with the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department, members of the GVSU police department and the Allendale Township supervisor, to strategize how to address ongoing safety concerns and meet the needs of our students. On campus, we have increased security, which includes the visible presence of our community police officers in residential areas.

While enhancing security and encouraging safe practices will remain an institutional priority, we want to reinforce to our community members that the perpetrator is the only person responsible for a sexual assault. That said, we encourage students to be aware of their surroundings, take precautions and take advantage of the Safewalk and RAVE Guardian programs offered by GVPD.

As student senate president, Ella Fritzemeier has become very aware that students have little knowledge about important resources on campus. As a result, student senate’s diversity affairs committee is actively finding new and different ways to publicize services.

We are also trying to invite students who have not historically focused on this issue to help provide leadership. An example is a recent program launched by the Women’s Center, “Champions of Change,” which provides an avenue for men to be involved in anti-violence efforts. If you are interested in joining the “Champions of Change” initiative for men, email [email protected].

We know most sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim/survivor, so we are continuing our bystander intervention trainings in earnest. To register, visit Bystander intervention attempts to prevent and address systemic social changes we need to see happen. It uses active techniques that prevent violence from occurring in the first place, as well as opportunities for intervention after a victim/survivor discloses.

If you find yourself needing assistance, consider contacting the victim advocate, Ashley Schulte, to get connected to support and resources. She is located in the Women’s Center, Kirkhof Center Room 1201 and can be reached by phone at (616) 331-2748 or email at [email protected].

We are a Laker family. To ensure we have the best learning environment possible, we know we must work together to keep our community free from sexual violence. We recognize as Lakers that “it’s on us” to create the kind of learning community in which all members can thrive. Please join us in this effort.

As presidents, we stand with those who have been impacted by violence, those who are feeling unsettled by recent alerts and those who are calling for action through violence prevention. We hear you, we see you and we support you.